[dropcap]Y[/dropcap]et another season of the Kenya Premier League (KPL) comes to a close on Wednesday afternoon and there were no big surprises as Gor Mahia emerged victorious once again clinching their third consecutive title.
Here are some talking points from this season’s KPL as the the league comes to an end.
It could have been predicted that Gor Mahia will win the title again even before the season began but after playing a few matches, indications were that K’Ogalo were could miss out. Gor Mahia failed to register good performances in the first few matches with Bandari, Mathare and Kariobangi Sharks looking like the probable favourites.
Gor’s poor form at the beginning of the season was largely because they were also participating in continental tournaments. Among the first fixtures of the season, Gor Mahia lost against Bandari FC and Kariobangi Sharks. At the time, K’Ogalo was distracted by the preliminary round of the CAF Champions League in which they failed to proceed to the next level.
After being bundled out of the Champions League Gor realized that they could be trophy-less if they only focus on the continental tournament. The team pulled up and registered some wins but could not manage winning when they were playing a continental match in the same week.
It was then that it was clear Gor Mahia is not as lethal as it was the previous season when they won the league without losing any match. However, at the time when K’Ogalo was struggling to balance between the CAF Confederations Cup and the league, its competitors were not winning either. Actually it is the inconsistency of the likes of Mathare and Bandari that helped Gor Mahia win the cup.
After ending their campaign at the CAF Confederations Cup, Gor Mahia came back to find the title still up for grabs, and grab it they did it.
The relegation battle
Vihiga United and Mount Kenya United were unfortunate to be relegated to the National Super League as they could not keep up with the pressure at the top tier league. The relegation battle, however, is not over as one more team could be relegated.
The third last team at the end of the season will battle it out with NSL’s second runners up for a chance to play in the KPL next season. Zoo Kericho and Chemelil are the two sides that risk playing the payoff. It cannot be established yet who will be the second runners up at the NSL as the competition is still tight with three matches left to play.
In the final match day today, Zoo Kericho are poised to play against KCB at the Mumias Sports complex while Chemelil will lock horns with Sony Sugar at Chemelil. Currently 17th, Chemelil would have to win their match and hope KCB wins against Zoo Kericho for them to be avoid playing the playoff. Zoo, on the other hand, needs to simply win and they will be safe.
The one club that was adversely affected is Mount Kenya United, formerly known as Nakumatt FC. The team’s plight was evident towards the end of the season when they failed to honour matches because they lacked transport.
Champions Gor Mahia have also experienced the same but not in the local league. Gor’s fund issues were evident when they were playing the CAF Confederations cup as they struggled to honour some away fixtures.
The sponsorship the clubs get doesn’t seem to be enough as insufficient funds has been an issue that has ailed football in the country for several seasons now.
Politics in clubs’ management
A team can be registering bad performances because of various reasons like players’ morale, poor form of players but in some Kenyan clubs its poor management. 12 time KPL Champions AFC Leopards has been ailing with the same for several seasons ever since they were promoted back to the top tier.
AFC’s issues affected the club in the first part of the season and almost caused the team to be relegated. Somehow, the club managed to suppress their management problem and improved their performances in the second half of the season.
A lot of credit is given to Andre Casa Mbungo, the Rwandan tactician who helped Ingwe find its winning ways. Mbungo however will need support from the management to get Ingwe back to the glory days.
Ingwe is not the only club that is ailed with management politics as Mount Kenya United also suffers from the same. The management of Mount Kenya United even came to a point where it abandoned the club. Players were complaining about unpaid allowances saying the management had forsaken them.
Lack of competition
Gor Mahia have dominated the league in the last decade winning title six times in the last nine seasons. Since 2013, Gor Mahia has failed to win the title once in 2016 when Tusker FC won it.
KPL teams have failed to give K’Ogalo competition in the league. AFC leopards, which was the team that competed with Gor for the title in the past, has failed to match up to K’Ogalo’s standards. The rise up of other clubs show signs of competition in the future as clubs like Bandari and Mathare continue to impress.
In the event that they are promoted next season, Wazito FC has been heavily likened to challenge Gor Mahia for the title. Luckily for them, they have been in the KPL before so they are familiar with most opponents.
Hopefully, next season, there will be competition for Gor Mahia.